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St Kitts/Nevis

One last push

It's my last weekend in St. Kitts and I'm living it up. Friday night, we went out and partied till 5am. Saturday, I attempted to go to the last tourist place in St. Kitts I hadn't been and was curious about- the Amazing Grace Museum that opened recently- but it was closed. Instead, I ended up with a nice drive. Sunday, I got up and went diving. We dove the River Taw (again) and then a new site I hadn't been to before. As usual, the dive was wonderful because I was diving with Kenneth's. We saw some big polka-dotted rays which were pretty awesome. Also, I outlasted the other folks diving by a long shot for the first time ever. (Usually, I run low on air towards the beginning of the group. This week, I had at least 10 minutes after the other guys left AND I wasn't even that low when we went up.)

Finally, I did one last round-island drive. Pictures soon.

So, now that I've lived here for a year, I think I've seen and done a lot of the things to see and do on the island. Here is my summary of what to do when you're in St. Kitts, by interest and time:

  • While I think it's silly to pay to go to a foreign country not to see it, if you have no interest in actually seeing anything... If you come in by cruise ship, stay in Port Zante or get a ride over to the beach at Frigate Bay or Shipwreck. If you're staying on-island, stay at the Marriott and you never have to leave.
  • If you're into sea life... Go diving with Kenneth's Dive Center, if you're certified. One of the other dive centers has a bad reputation for a reason, and all my dives with Kenneth's have been wonderful. If you're not certified, you can snorkel the reef right off the beach at Shipwreck, which is up the peninsula.
  • If you're into active or adventure activities... Hike Mt. Liamuiga. It's a strenuous hike, but a very cool journey. Kayak from the end of the peninsula (like Reggae Beach). Run the golf cart paths of the golf course by the Marriott. If it's a week night and you're on-island, go to No Limit Fitness (Frigate Bay by the circle with the Canadian flag) for aerobics/kickboxing/Zumba class that starts around 6ish. If it's Saturday, go for a run/walk with the Hash House Harriers. If you're on-island in March, do the cross-island swim (to or from depending on the year) Nevis.
  • If you're into history/culture... If there's only one thing you do, it should be to go to Brimstone Hill Fortress. There are pretty decent displays, cannons, and a great view. The St. Kitts museum in Port Zante won't take very long, but check it out. Wingfield Estate is a ruined sugar mill that has signage and that you can climb in and explore, but also doesn't take very long. Romney manor/Caribelle batik is right next to Wingfield and you can see them making batik patterns there. Independence Square isn't well-marked, but a lot of island history happened there.
  • If you're into music... If you came on a cruise ship, you're somewhat limited. There is a steel pan band that usually sits by the Port Zante Amina Craftmarket entrance. Inside the Pelican Mall there is a rasta man who sells CDs and you can pick up the CDs of the local bands (Grand Masters, Sugar Band, Small Axe, Kollision). If you're staying on-island during the week, go to No Limit Fitness (see directions above) for the class because Elston always plays great local music. If you're staying on-island over the weekend, go hang out at The Terminal for early. (The bus/ferry terminal downtown Basseterre has good reggae and other music as well as some of the better dancers on the island.) For later, try to catch the party at Cloud 9, Potential, or 17 Degrees- whichever one has a local band instead of a DJ will be more packed. For later later, head to the Strip at Frigate Bay, again trying for whatever beach bar has a local band. If you're tastes are a bit calmer, Spice Mill also frequently has a band playing.
  • If you're a foodie... Check out the cookup. (Anybody on the street willing to give you a plate where you don't have a choice what goes on it, you just get what they have in the pans today.) Check out the local vendors in Basseterre who are sitting by the circus or the terminal and selling local fruits, veggies, and beverages. You won't find these in the grocery store. Also, if it's Saturday morning, check out the Saturday market for fresh whole spices and more local foods. Depending on what season it is, see if you can get your hands on these items that aren't common in the states: breadfruit, breadnut, soursop (or soursop juice), wax apple, monkey cherry (cashew fruit), raw sugar cane, golden apple, sorrell juice (not the herb, a red flower) and these fruits that are more common in the states, but also great fresh in St. Kitts: tamarind, mango, passion fruit, pomelo, pineapple, fresh whole coconut Go to Coopers over towards Dieppe Bay for the best macaroni pie. Carambola has great soup, but average everything else. If you're looking for good foreign food, check Twist in Port Zante.

Posted by spsadventures 16:00 Archived in St Kitts/Nevis Comments (0)

CARNIVAL!! Jouvert morning

Details to come, but here are some pictures to get you started.

streets during Jouvert

streets during Jouvert


Jouvert morning

Jouvert morning

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Don't stop the Carnival!

Holy crap it's fabulous to live on a tropical island during Carnival time! (I'm saying as it's all just beginning.)

At work, the plant manager announced that there would be no overtime Friday and Monday would be a half day (Tuesday/Christmas and Wednesday/Boxing Day we have off already) to a crowd full of cheers. I had been sick this week and still had a headache and stuffy nose, so I took some meds and a nap in order to get ready to go out. I awoke still a bit sick, but partying made all of it disappear. For real- I think it's the best medicine.

We started at Fat Tuesday because it was early, and headed over to the terminal. "The terminal" is the bus/ferry terminal, which happens to be lined with dozens of tiny stands all selling the same beers, snacks, and sodas. Friday night, a dj gets the music going, and everybody is just liming, having a good time. The music was mostly reggae (the clubs here tend to play more soca), but a lot of it was upbeat enough to dance to, and some had a more latin beat. [Quick music primer: Reggae tends to be a bit slower or more calm music that often has a religious/moral/political message. Some songs can still be danced to, but others are for chilling. Soca is very upbeat fast-paced dancing music that tends to be mostly about partying, carnival, bacchanal, jouvert morning, etc. This is what we work out to at the gym I go to. I love dancing to this the way I love dancing to reggeton more than pop back home. Calypso is also popular here, although it is not really good dance music. It is very political and the revolutionary/humanist/moralist/socialist/anarchist in me thinks it's about the greatest thing since sliced bread.] If you're a tourist who just wants to go talk to locals and chill with them, maybe dance a little on a Friday night, the terminal is probably the right place to start. (Later, the strip might be better.) It's cool even for females- the guys were pretty respectful and not creepy, although some of that could be that it was still early and there were still a few kids around.

Next, we headed to Party Central. During Carnival time, one of the streets in town is blocked off and becomes a huge street party. They have a dj or bands there every night and people are just having a ball in the middle of the street. (During the day, it's just a blocked off street.) It was early and the party hadn't started so much, so we went to Potential, where Grandmasters were playing. Throughout the night, I met a few dozen friends of one of my friends. Every 5 steps and she was introducing me to somebody else. I felt like I was at home with Lisa! The funny thing was that I was acquiring "nicknames" every few seconds. Some of them were not so cute (whitey, although that's not meant as any sort of insult), some cute (butterscotch), and some bland (Washington, because everybody wanted to know that I was from DC). About the first two- yes, I'm frequently about the only white person at most of the places we go. It has never been an issue though (with me or anybody else). I think that in the US, we overanalyze things and have different perceptions than people in St. Kitts. For example, in St. Kitts, when people are talking about each other, they might say something like "the fat one," "the lady with a man-head," or something else that we'd take as an insult in the US. In St. Kitts, those types of descriptions are judgement-free. That somebody is fat is not bad or good it just is. That somebody is white or "clear" or black isn't bad, it just is. That being said, there are still plenty of guys who give this amazed "she can dance" comment to me or my friends after we dance, and I've been led to believe it's because of the stereotype that white people can't dance. Back to the story- we left Potential for Party Central to see Small Axe. I had a blast! I'm going to admit that some of the excitement is that I knew people. It probably wouldn't have been as much fun as just a pair or few people, but I knew enough people to keep moving around the crowd and got to dance with a lot of different friends. The party just kept going. I have to admit, that I'm amazed at how big the party still was at 4:30am, when I decided to call it quits. I had energy to keep going, but we were into "repeat mode." The bands here have a few songs that everybody really loves, so like a top 40 radio station, they tend to repeat them every hour.

Woke up in the (almost afternoon) feeling like P. Diddy. Grabbed my (sun)glasses, I'm out the door, I'm gonna hit this city... I got "breakfast" at El Fredo's, a restaurant on the Bay Road between Basseterre and Bird Rock that I've always wanted to try, but it's only open for lunch and I work most of the days it's open. The food was authentic food, but in a sit-down setting. It's got a "view" of the main road, and a beat-up neighborhood, but the place it pretty covered in vines and greenery so that you feel like you're in a little oasis. The food wasn't anything special, but it wasn't bad and was actually authentic. I grabbed some golden apple juice at Redi Chicken. (Golden apple isn't an apple, but a fruit more similar to a mango.) Eh. Next, I hit town to try to pick up my jouvert package. Jouvert morning is the biggest carnival even on the island. All the music talks about it and I've heard it said that Kittitians are either at jouvert morning, or waiting for the next one. The music here certainly supports that statement. On jouvert morning, people in troops all dress in the same costumes and go dancing in the streets. Each troop has a band/dj and a sponsor who get together to organize it all. I had to stop by the digicell (sponsor) tent to pick up my package that contained all of the items for my "costume" for jouvert. On that errand, I also picked up some strawberry cheesecake ice cream from the pink-and-white-striped ice cream place on Fort Street. (I'd always wanted to go there, but it's always closed.) That was easily the best ice cream I've had on the island. I highly recommend it. I also went to get some gifts for some cousins I'm going to see soon. Since it's not a cruise ship day, a minimal amount of stores are open in Port Zante and the Amina Craftmarket isn't open either. I did see a new art gallery on the other side of the National Museum building, and one of the artists was there to show off his work. The stuff there is very nice, but out of my price range for what I was looking for. I got into a debate with one of the shop owners in Port Zante. He's seen me a bunch of times, which is helpful in that I get a "locals discount" which basically means he'll take the time to let me bargain instead of giving me the listed price for tourists. I was looking for stuff that was actually made in St. Kitts, and not just handmade elsewhere with a beach theme and sold in St. Kitts. His comment: you can tell them it was made in St. Kitts and they won't know. He only had a few items actually made in St. Kitts, which I find a bit sad, but he does recommend the Amina Craft market as those items are actually made here. Some of the materials come from elsewhere (example, they buy his jewelry, break it, and use the beads to create their own), but most of the stuff there actually has island labor in it. I'm not a jewelry connoisseur, but I can't tell the difference in the jewelry. That being said, I'd rather buy from them (or someplace like Caribelle Batik) that uses actual island labor to create something unique, than a shop that sells some generic item that happens to say St. Kitts when sold here, but says the name of any other island or beach when sold there. I think it says something about commercialism and how the tourism industry has caused places to lose their character. If the tourists all wanted locally-made items to remember their unique St. Kitts (or wherever) experience, that would be what the stores stocked. Instead, the tourists all buy the same crap everywhere (generic t-shirts with offensive slogans, half-mugs that tout how expensive the vacation was so that only half a mug was affordable, plastic mass-manufactured magnets, imprinted plastic lighters, light up keychains with "your name" on it). I'm not saying I've never bought that stuff or that I have anything against it as a gift for somebody who wasn't on the vacation. However, I do generally at least try to get something that is made wherever I go instead, and the ratio of generic foreign-manufactured stuff to unique stuff is pretty high.

Party Central by day (empty)

Party Central by day (empty)

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Nevis

This morning, we took the Sea Bridge over to Nevis. We arrived at the loading area at 8:30 or so just to make sure we got on the 9am Sea Bridge as sometimes it fills up. At 10 something, it arrived and loaded. Welcome to Island Time. At least we got a good nap as we waited. We were still pretty exhausted from the staying out late and the volcano climb.

Over in Nevis, we started by looking for the Fort Ashby ruins that were marked on the map. We couldn't really find them, but we found a neat little river/lake that would dump into the sea when it rains.

Next, we headed into Charlestown. The city was pretty closed as it's a Sunday and there are not cruise ships, but we saw the monuments, memorials, outsides of museums, and other important buildings' facades.

Continuing around the island, we saw the Bath Historic Hotel, the Nevis Museum, and then the Golden Rock Plantation.

Lunch was unexpectedly superb. The arugula salad was just that- arugula. Not a bunch of micro greens and spinach with a little arugula, but real, peppery arugula. In fact, it was almost too peppery. The balsamic wasn't balsamic vinaigrette. It was real, mothered balsamic vinegar. I was very impressed with the quality of the ingredients they used. That being said, it could have used some honey or something a bit sweeter to go with the very peppery and tangy salad. After lunch, we headed around the island some more, stopping here and there. We eventually made it back to the Sea Bridge for the "2:30" boat. Again, we got in some good napping while we waited. Even when he told us "10 minutes," we got a good nap before he came to check tickets and still had plenty of time to wake up between then and when we actually got on the boat.

Back in St. Kitts, we headed over to Reggae beach, where some church was having a fundraiser, so the beach was very full. After a little beach time, we went home to rest there, get sorted out, and then went to dinner at the new Mexican place, Chinchilla.

Chinchilla has just opened- as in the sign went up late this week. We had heard from a friend that the food was ok, but you didn't get what you asked for. (Example, order fish enchilada and get chicken enchilada.) I found the same. Our nachos came with extra toppings that I didn't really want. I couldn't find the beans in the bean burritos, but there were a lot of veggies. That being said, the food was all ok. Not great, but not horrible either.

Heritage Village Gingerbread houses

Heritage Village Gingerbread houses


Golden Rock Plantation

Golden Rock Plantation


Historic Nevis

Historic Nevis


Creek where Fort Ashby should be

Creek where Fort Ashby should be

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Up the Volcano

Friday, I checked out one more "restaurant." There is a green food truck that is usually sitting on the corner of Fort St. that sells "rasta food," which is apparently vegetarian + fish. Somebody from work recommended it, so I picked up a take-out box of food. The macaroni pie was decent, but the food mostly wasn't. It needed a LOT of salt.

I picked up dinner at Rock Lobster, getting pretty much one of everything I thought was interesting so that we'd have lots of choices. I was less impressed than last time, but it was ok. Friday night, Jen got here!!!! I picked her up from the airport, we got settled and ate our food, waited for the rain to abate, and then set out for Potential with some other friends. Because it had just been raining, some sections of the dance floor were under about an inch or so of water. That didn't stop the Grandmasters from playing and everybody from dancing and having a good time though. I don't get why the club doesn't have the Grandmasters playing longer than just to midnight, because whenever they're done and it switches to DJ, most people leave and head elsewhere. Next, we headed to The Strip to see what was going on there and to get Jen some beach time and a chance to dip her feet in the Caribbean. Most of the bars were pretty dead. There was one that was playing mostly American music, but over some Caribbean beats with the occasional local song, and we ended up there. Most of the people in the bar looked like expats and tourists, but there were a few locals other than that ones I brought with me. The dancing there is soooo different that what I've become accustomed to. It was very much more American-style than St. Kitts style. I had a reasonable time though. I think we left around 2 and there will still plenty of people there, so it's obvious that plenty of other people were having a good time.

By the time we dropped my friends off, we ended up home at 2:30, which left not quite enough time for sleeping since we had to be at Port Zante at 8:30 to meet with our guide for the volcano hike. We had booked the hike through Thenford Grey's tour company because they were less expensive than some of the other operators, they left at a later time than some of the other operators, and they actually had a tour going. (Many of the other operators didn't have a tour going at all this weekend, and some didn't want to do a tour just for 2 people.) We met with David, the tour guide, and got loaded onto the "Safari bus." In addition to us, there were 5 people from the cruise ship. As we drove around the island to the trailhead, David shared some information with everybody and pointed out some sights. I found it humorous that he spent time talking about the government housing neighborhoods we passed, but didn't mention anything at all about the sugar mill ruins. Right when we got to the trailhead, something went wrong with the vehicle, and we all got a good whiff of smoke as the safari buses have open sides. They're great for taking pictures, not so great when the vehicle dies in this manner. Fortunately, we were where we needed to be and set off. One thing that did impress me though was that while we were on the trail, David was able to discreetly make the calls he needed to make in order to get us alternate transportation back.

The trail starts off as a nice walk through the woods, and then becomes a hike, then becomes a climb. He had given us walking sticks and water as we set off, and boy was I thankful for both. Throughout the trail, I drank his water, the water I brought, and 2 cups of the juice he brought for the top. I could have drank more. I've never done a hike with a walking stick before, nor ever felt the need. It was absolutely essential on this hike. Much of the trail is very slippery. Some is over smooth rocks (and in part, the rocks are in the middle of a creek, so you're stepping on smooth rocks as the water flows right over them.) Some is mud covered in wet leaves. Some was gravelly little rocks that also slipped a bit. Despite the walking stick, I still fell 5 times, and slipped countless others. We were all pretty muddy by the time the tour was over. However, it was worth the views. While I missed a lot of the rainforest as we journeyed because I was busy looking at the ground to not fall, David did stop us for breaks every once in a while, and we saw some cool views. He explained a few of the more interesting trees and vines to us, including one tree that gives off a sap that is used like tiger balm. I know we were rushed because the cruise people had to get back to the boat, but it would have been nice to go a bit slower to see more as when we did stop to see the views, they were incredible. The view most people are really on the trail for is the view from the top. When we got to the top, we were able to look down into the volcano crater and see the little lake at the bottom. In my mind, the crater wasn't so deep. I think the bottom was close to sea-level. In my mind, the inside of the volcano would be rocky, but it was actually covered in plants and very green. I don't know if other volcanos are like this or not, but this one completely changed my preconceptions. All in all, it took us over 2 hours to get to the top at a pretty strenuous pace. It took us plenty of time to get down too, as there were many places where we had to climb down the rocks backwards (and very carefully).

Upon returning to town, we grabbed some coconut water from a friend's stand by the gas station because it supposedly has good electrolytes in it. We de-mudded, put on our swimsuits, and headed out to Shipwreck to relax. I'm pretty sure I fell asleep on the beach chairs, but woke because it was cold and moved my towel on top of me like a blanket. Please keep in mind that I'm fully adjusted to the weather here, so 75 degrees F with a breeze feels cold to me. We were there just before sundown, which apparently is when the sand crabs all come out to play. We watched them pop up from their holes and scurry around the beach. They're quick little buggers.

Shipwreck closes at sundown and we wanted to sit somewhere and eat, so we went to Carambola, which is right up the road. Carambola is gorgeous! The whole place is gorgeous stone. They have these neat round 2-person beach chairs. The palm trees seem strategically placed for optimum beauty. The sunset view from there was pretty amazing. The food was generally pretty good too. They had an interesting mix of cuisine- some Asian items like sushi, some seafood, some Italian items like risotto. The one thing that really stood out though was the pumpkin soup. This pumpkin soup may have been he best bowl of soup I've ever had in my life. It was perfectly creamy with just the right flavor- not too tangy or too salty or too anything. The pumpkin was well-complimented with some muted spices, but they were just enough to make it stand out properly. The only unfortunate part is that it's only the "soup of the day" so it's only around once per week, per the waitress. I will have to call ahead to see when it's the soup of the day and I will totally order it to pick up and take away when it is.

Carambola sunset

Carambola sunset


Sand crabs at Shipwreck

Sand crabs at Shipwreck


Volcano hiking trail

Volcano hiking trail


at top of Mt. Liamuiga

at top of Mt. Liamuiga


View into volcano crater

View into volcano crater


Volcano hiking trail

Volcano hiking trail


Zipper vine

Zipper vine

Posted by spsadventures 16:00 Archived in St Kitts/Nevis Comments (0)

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